Life after graduation is a lot harder than anyone lets on.
No one warns you about what it’s like to be taken from the protective bubble that is your college campus, away from your best friends (who, for the past four years, have lived just across the hall), and be thrust into this new life in which you are expected to immediately become a fully functional adult. If I could go back in time and tell my past self anything, it would be to better prepare for this transition period in my life.
Wait, I take that back. If I could tell my past self anything, it would be to eat literally all of the carbs in the world before you lose your fast metabolism and have to go to the gym every day and feel guilty about finishing a pint of ice cream in one sitting. Eat all of it while you can and ENJOY EVERY BITE because it will NOT last forever.
But I digress. Anyway, as I was saying, life after graduation is hard. Granted, at first it just feels like another summer break. Of course graduation is sad, but reality doesn’t fully sink in right away.
I was incredibly fortunate in the fact that I graduated college with a good job lined up and wonderful parents who were willing to help me find the perfect new place to call home. Not to say that they were kicking me out; they would have loved for me to stay at home longer, but the hour-plus commute from our house to New York City just wasn’t feasible or appealing.
I started work in June, only a few short weeks after graduation. Talk about diving right into adult life. The following month I moved out of my parents’ house into my first apartment, a two bedroom fifth-floor walk up in Hoboken, New Jersey.
Only a 30 minute drive from home, Hoboken was a logical place to start out my adult life. The commute to the city was quick and easy (in theory, but it turns out all commutes become your own personal version of hell), and everyone was young and cool and vibrant. I aspired to be young and cool and vibrant, too. I had the young part down at least.
I’m not gonna lie, it was a really rough first year.
Most of my closest friends from school stayed up in Boston after graduation. I would visit, but after awhile the constant traveling on weekends took a toll on me (and my wallet).
I didn’t like my job and wasn’t sure how I was going to make the move into the more creative type of role that better suited my long term career goals. It was a lonely and sad time in my life, and the worst part was I wasn’t even really sure why. Things had changed so much in such a short period of time, and I was having a harder time adjusting than I had expected.
Now, let’s not feel too sorry for me. Sure, I was in a job that I didn’t love, but it paid well and gave me financial freedom from my parents for the first time in my life. I also had all the basic necessities for life – shelter, food, water (actually I didn’t have hot water for eighteen days in January but that’s another story). So, all in all, I was doing pretty well.
I don’t know if I could pinpoint exactly when this dissonance subsided. A lot of it had to do with a few new people in my life. I met one of my current best friends at work. We started in the same job on the same day and, although she claims she didn’t like me at first (thanks again for that, Alex), we soon bonded over our mutual misery in the role. I am eternally grateful for our misery, though, because life post-graduation would definitely not be the same without Alex. She did introduce me to Chopt, after all.
I also owe a lot of my post-grad happiness to my boyfriend, Matt, who I met about nine months after graduation. I’m a huge proponent for being able to love yourself before someone else can love you, and fortunately Matt came into my life at a time when that was true for me. I’m so grateful that we met when we did, and that I’d had a few months to adjust to my new adult life so that I was in a place where I was ready for a relationship for all of the right reasons.
I do still find it funny considering myself an adult. Britney hit the nail on the head when she said she was, and I quote, “Not a girl, not yet a woman.” (She also had a complete mental breakdown a few years ago, but I for one choose to overlook the head shaving incident and suggest you do as well. We all did weird things in 2007.)
A lot of the dissonance likely comes with the fact that for almost all our lives we’re treated as children, bound by rules and limits. Then, for a brief moment in time, we’re released into this microcosm community also known as college. There’s freedom, yes, but you’re usually too poor or too busy or too hungover to actually take advantage of it. And you’re still seen as a “kid.”
Then, suddenly, with little to no warning, you’re drop-kicked into the real world and expected to be a contributing, responsible, mature member of society. Wait, weren’t you just gargoyling on a keg of Natty Light last week? Talk about culture shock.
And, while I wish there was an answer as to how to avoid feeling this way, I think the only thing that can really help is time.
Although I’m not sure that everyone experiences a sad or lonely period to this extent after graduation, I think there is often a degree of feeling lost or unsure no matter the circumstances. I, for one, took many aspects of college life for granted, and was not at all prepared for the reality of no longer being able to walk just a few feet away to spend time with my best friends.
But the fact is, we are so young (and cool! and vibrant!) and have so much of our lives ahead of us.
Now, it’s been over a year and a half since I graduated. I have incredible friends and a loving boyfriend. I’m in a job that I love on the career path that I’ve envisioned for myself for my entire life. And there are so many episodes of Fixer Upper on HGTV that I have yet to see. (Right now I have 14 recorded on my DVR. Currently accepting bets for when I will finish. I would watch that show in my sleep if I could.)
There really is so much more out there after college, and I couldn’t be more excited to see what the rest of my post-grad adult life has in store.